Review: Tampa by Alissa Nutting

Posted by on Jun 20, 2014 in Reading | 0 comments

Review: Tampa by Alissa Nutting

There’s been a lot of talk lately on the book blogosphere about the likability of main characters and how that affects the reader reaction to a novel. In looking for this month’s book selection, I wanted to find a novel with a main character that looks from the outside like they might be completely unredeemable, or at least wholly unlikable, and see how that affects my opinion of the book overall. When I came across the premise for Tampa, I knew I had found my book. A twenty-six year old female predator who targets her male students? Unlikable? Check!

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by Alissa Nutting

tampa On the surface, twenty-six-year-old Celeste Price has it all. Celeste is exceptionally beautiful and married to a good-looking and very wealthy cop, and she’s about to start a brand new job that she’s been looking forward to for as long as she can remember. But this isn’t just any dream job; it’s a position she’s been plotting to land to keep her closer to her singular sexual obsession. Celeste Price is a junior high school teacher with a lascivious eye for her young male students, and she’s set her sights on one in particular. When Jack Patrick walks into her classroom for the first time, Celeste’s blood rises and she knows that he is the one. He’s perfect parts naïve and willing, and Celeste pulls no punches in his seduction. When their lustful affair spirals out of control, Celeste does shameless damage control, taking no risks with her obsession.

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This is one of those books that people are going to have all kinds of opinions about, and those opinions are likely to be quite polarized. As for me, I ran the whole range of emotions in reading this novel. On one hand I was wholeheartedly repulsed by the main character’s singular obsession with seducing these unsuspecting young men, yet on the other hand the author does such a wonderful job of making Celeste a well-rounded and full character that there was a certain amount of curiosity in my repulsion. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing right in any way about what Celeste is doing, yet there’s an oddity in understanding the motivations of this self-professed “soulless pervert.”


You should be forewarned that Tampa is graphic. The entire book is written from inside Celeste’s head, and she’s not shy about depicting her every wanton fantasy, often involving her underage targets. She’s a dirty girl, and there were portions that left me feeling like I needed a good cleansing shower, yet at the same time these descriptions are somehow not gratuitous in any way. They’re necessary to understand this obsession that ultimately drives Celeste to the ruin of not only her own life, but the life of the object of her obsession as well. Her secret is all-consuming and permeates her every waking thought. In private she daydreams about her next conquest, and in public she barely hides her sordid activities.


Tampa is not only a story of one woman’s sexual depravity, but also leads to larger questions of gender roles in sexual behavior. In the aftermath of Celeste’s affair with Jack Patrick a question is raised in court, “If you were a teenage male, would you call a sexual experience with her abuse?” It fosters the question of how we see these young victims. If this were a male predator with a young female student, would we still see the victim in the same way? Because Celeste’s targets were young men and she is a beautiful and desired woman, they are seen more in the light of living the ultimate in teen fantasies than they are as victims of a crime. Further questions of justice as a whole are also raised as Celeste is let off on a relatively light sentence simply because she is too beautiful to be held in jail. These are huge, messy themes for a novel to tackle, and Alissa Nutting does an excellent job of making the reader think twice about their initial assumptions.


Tampa is exceptionally well written, with tight, concise prose and vivid description. There’s no questioning that the subject matter lies on questionable moral ground, but the execution is so darned fascinating.


About Riki

Riki has a long-standing love affair with all things books and writing. She indulged her love for all things literary with a degree in English Literature from Arizona State University and is currently studying at the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing. Riki is an intern with Entangled Publishing and a member of SCBWI. She authors the blog Refreshingly Riki where the discussion is lively and no book goes unloved. She is the first-place recipient of the Arizona Authors Association Literary Contest and has been published on the virtual pages of and the actual print pages of the State Press. You can visit her at and follow her on Twitter (@missriki).

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  1. Riki’s Roundup: Out & About | Refreshingly Riki - […] My second review was for Alissa Nutting’s TAMPA. This one was a little more difficult to write due to…

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